One of the things that defines BuzzFeed’s apparently successful approach to advertising is the way its ads mirror its editorial content. So there have been sponsored lists, a sponsored feed of GIFs, and more recently, sponsored quizzes.
I’ve certainly noticed an uptick in BuzzFeed quizzes in the past few months, usually asking some variant of, “What Kind Of X or Y Are You?” (I should probably disclose that I’ve done a little bit of freelance writing for the site, but that doesn’t make me any less bemused by some of its content.) Melissa Rosenthal, BuzzFeed’s director of creative services, told me that quizzes have been a part of the content for years, but they took off recently thanks to “a massive hit,” namely a quiz published in January that purportedly determines, “What City Should You Actually Live In?”
Naturally, BuzzFeed saw the popularity of editorial quizzes and followed suit with ads — Rosenthal said her team follows “a lot of the trends that edit’s seeing,” so it’s “actively pitching and selling” sponsored quizzes, with about 10 published so far. The successes include a Mattel-sponsored quiz, “Which Barbie Doll Are You?” and an HBO-sponsored one, “How Would You Die In ‘Game Of Thrones?’” BuzzFeed says both posts have been viewed more than 1 million times, with the Game of Thrones quiz clocking in at 75,000 Facebook shares, while the Barbie quiz has 161,000.
There’s very much a “church and state” divide between the editorial and ad teams, Rosenthal said, but at the same time they’re “backed by the same data.” In this case, “We’ve seen branded quizzes resonate just as well as editorial.” Indeed, even though the two sponsored quizzes I mentioned are marked as written by “BuzzFeed Partners”, I’m guessing that many of the participants didn’t notice a difference.
Rosenthal also pointed out that these quizzes can be useful for advertisers since they can “potentially tell the brand about the habits of the people taking them.” And they can incorporate “real research,” for example by asking about your lifestyle and using those answers to identify the car model that might be a good fit.
Asked if she’s worried that the quizzes might just be a fad, Rosenthal replied, “We’re always thinking about that.” There hasn’t been “a dip” so far, but she added, “That doesn’t mean we’re not thinking about what new forms they can take. … We’re never really stagnant in terms of our creative abilities, especially on the branded side.”